Positive Relationships

5 ways to be a mindful early years practitioner

  • 5 ways to be a mindful early years practitioner

Laura Peirce shares techniques for introducing mindfulness into your practice… 

Mindfulness is about being present – being in the ‘here and now’ and not worrying about what might happen or what has happened.

Young children are naturally mindful during their play when they become absorbed in what they’re doing, no matter what’s going on around them. 

Being able to be present as a practitioner is a skill that can be developed and is essential to ensuring that children’s mindfulness is not disrupted.   

1 | Prepare yourself: breathing

It sounds simple, and it is, but taking three slow deep breaths and focusing on those breaths really works. When you can feel yourself getting ‘wound up’, take a breath so that you give yourself time to respond; not react.

Deep, slow deliberate breathing allows the pre-frontal part of your brain to respond rather than the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ part of the brain (amygdala) reacting. 

2 | Settling into the day

Be mindful of what the child’s day might have been like before they came into nursery. Their bucket might already be full, perhaps from hurrying to get ready, having breakfast, getting their shoes and coat on, dropping their sibling to school, and then finally getting to nursery.

Allow the child to settle into the day, follow their lead and be sensitive to their needs, rather than rushing them to jump straight into the day’s activities. 

3 | Experiencing ‘flow’

Have you ever been so engrossed in something that you find time has just disappeared?  If so, you have experienced ‘flow’. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as being so “involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter”.

This is how it is for children when they are allowed to play without interruption.  Pause to consider whether your interaction will help the child. Give them the power to invite you into their play – or not? 

Routine is important for young children so that they know what’s coming next and can feel secure in their environment, but too many routines can lead to a stop/start feel for children, never really allowing them to fully engage in their play. 

Think about whether you need to stop their play to all come for a story or for everyone to join circle time.  If the answer is yes, try and plan these things at a transition time, for example just before lunch or home time.

4 | Introducing yoga

You might want to consider bringing yoga in your nursery. Yoga not only keeps you fit and supple, it also helps with self-regulation and control through breathing, poses, stillness and being aware of the way you move.

Building yoga sessions into the nursery day benefits practitioners as well as the children.  It’s about having fun, letting everyone feel that they can do it, keeping it simple and being yourself.

5 | Self-regulate to co-regulate

This is a little more complex but works on the principle that you should put your life vest on first, because we can’t look after others effectively until we look after ourselves! 

Breathing is a great place to start (see above) although there are many other mindfulness practices that you could choose to follow. Find what works for you and build it into your routine regularly, whether it is meditation, yoga, massage, regular exercise, a good book or a long hot bath.

Co-regulating with the children (and colleagues) helps them to recognise their feelings and introduce techniques to help them cope.  For example, this can be demonstrated to children through co-regulation by imagining you are holding a flower, sniffing the scent of the flower then very slowly blowing away the petals.

To find out more about co-regulation, read Tamsin Grimmer’s article on emotional regulation in the early years.

Laura Peirce owns Hopes & Dreams Childcare Group in the Isle of Man and is a Yoginis coach delivering yoga and mindfulness to her nurseries.  Laura is also trained to teach Paws b mindfulness to 7- to 11- year-olds.

Follow Hopes & Dreams Childcare Group on Twitter: @HopesDreamsIoM